Opening the Floor–Ask an Expert! What Do YOU Want to Learn More About?

Need some adverbs taken out?

Trust me. I be an expert….

One of my favorite parts of blogging is I get to hang out with you guys. I love your comments and REALLY LOVE when you share your stories. I read every one of them, and the only reason I don’t reply to all comments is because some of you subscribe to be messaged when there is a new comment…

…and I don’t want to blow up your e-mail with “((HUGS)) You are so awesome! I forget my purse ALL the time!”

I never run out of ideas because the world is a very interesting place. Writing is a complex topic and social media for writers is ever-evolving (along with the publishing paradigm).

I do try to mix this blog up with different content, some informational and some just fun. Keeps me fresh and you from being bored. Besides I am far too crazy creative to wear an expert suit all the time. I have to wear digital panty hose and they chafe :D.

But I want to try something different, today. I generally choose the topics. Ever so often one of you might ask something in the comments and that gives me an idea for a blog. I can keep just blogging about the things I find important or interesting, but I’d like to ask you guys what you’d like me to blog about. Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

  • What do you want to know about fiction?
  • Plotting?
  • Character?
  • How do you hook in the beginning of your book?
  • When do we need a prologue?
  • POV?
  • More dialogue (maybe from me or another expert)?
  • Tips for self-editing?
  • How to find a good editor? What’s the difference between a line-editor and content-editor? What is reasonable to pay for these services?
  • How do we choose what genre to write?
  • How do you write YA?
  • How do you get started writing for children?
  • World-building? (for fantasy, sci-fi, etc.)
  • Differences and expectations in genres?
  • How do you create romantic tension? Write love scenes?
  • What are the fundamentals of good romance?
  • Scene and sequel structure?
  • Generating conflict and tension?
  • How to write a strong female character and make her likable, too?
  • What are elements of great heroes?
  • What are the must-have resources for writers?
  • Why is it a bad idea to put Band-Aids in your hair?
  • If you are brand new, where do you start? How do you begin that first novel?
  • How do you get ideas for stories?
  • How to do research?
  • Want to know about non-fiction?
  • How do you choose a topic?
  • Write a proposal?
  • Land an agent without using chloroform?
  • How do you choose an agent? What questions do you ask?
  • When is it time to fire an agent?
  • How do you pitch?
  • Create a log-line/elevator pitch?
  • How do you get blurbs for your book without using blackmail?
  • Which type of publishing might be a good fit for you?
  • Choose a conference?
  • Speak Pig Latin like a pro?
  • Do you want to explore psychological profiles for crime writing?
  • Forensics?
  • Want to write about the military or guns in your book and sound like you know what the heck you are talking about? Revolvers DO NOT have a safety, btw. Also, it is a MAGAZINE, not a CLIP. And if we call it a MAGAZINE CLIP, it makes us sound double-stupid.
  • Want to know more about author brand?
  • How to handle a pen name with social media?
  • How to use a pen name and ACTUALLY protect your real identity?
  • Internet safety. How do we stay safe in cyberspace?
  • How to use Twitter and NOT be a spamming @$$clown?
  • More about blogging? Where to start? What to talk about?
  • How to deal with haters and trolls without becoming one, too?
  • How to balance social media and writing? It can be done. No whining.
  • Want to know more about Smashwords? What does it do?
  • CreateSpace? How to use it?
  • Why it’s a bad idea to let your husband have a remote control helicopter AND access to Post-It Notes?
  • Want to learn tips for productivity?
  • Time-management?
  • Learning self-discipline? I was once a lazy sot, so if I can do it, ANYONE CAN.
  • Balance family, work and writing without going crazy…ok craziER. Y’all are writers, so you know we all start out crazy. Little disclaimer there.
  • Learning social intelligence?
  • Having a fabulous social media presence WITHOUT changing your personality (unless you’re a jerk). Shy introverts don’t need a personality transplant. You are awesome. Be YOU.
  • How to teach your child Jedi skills by age three?
  • How to deal with family/friends who doesn’t get why you want to be a writer and who are kinda jerks to you?
  • How to put down boundaries in a world with no borders?
  • How to be an expert on ghosts? What exactly IS a K-2 meter and why are all paranormal investigators named “Darryl” and wear a mullet?

These are just some of the topics I could think of. Most I can blog about, but I also am connected to other, more knowledgeable writers who are always happy to lend a hand (as y’all saw with Les Edgerton’s series). I am not ashamed to admit I don’t know stuff (like WTH IS a K-2 meter and why do all these regular people all seem to have them in their kitchen drawers like a flashlight?).

Honestly, if I don’t know about a topic,  I will just abduct recruit another expert who does know…and then promise to free them in exchange for a guest post. I have a creepy panel van AND a very impressive and intimidating NERF battle-ax. So here’s your chance to tell me what you want to talk about. What do you need help with? The floor is yours…

I LOVE hearing from you guys! Now you get to ask me questions AND it counts for the contest. How COOL IS THAT?

To prove it and show my love, for the month of April, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of April I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!


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  1. I’d love to hear about how you/other writers first started out in self-publishing. What was your experience? What did you learn from your mistakes/failures? What were the best ways you found to get your name out there?

    I recently started following your blog (love reading it by the way!) so I don’t know whether this is something you’ve covered before.

  2. “Why it’s a bad idea to let your husband have a remote control helicopter AND access to Post-It Notes?”

    This one for sure. That sounds like a good story 😉

  3. I’d love some sort of conference round-up. Every year I find myself wondering which ones I should go to, which ones are worth the money…which I can skip, etc. Limited budgets means being very choosy, so I need bang for buck. Plus there’s different types of conferences: writer craft ones vs fan ones, etc. And it’s surprisingly hard to find conference reviews. I figure you go to more than I do so you probably have the scoop on a lot of them.

  4. Showing versus telling. Hands down the hardest concept for me to grasp. Not the obvious examples like telling the reader someone’s afraid instead of showing it, or having the narrator simply telling us what happened. Those are easy to spot. I’m worried about the more subtle aspects, such as why interior thoughts are sometimes considered telling and sometimes not.

    Thanks Kristen.

  5. The ‘how to research’ idea intrigues me…to see what other things authors might research that I’m skipping over. What topics in stories turn you off because you can tell an author didn’t do their research, etc. Stuff like that.

  6. Okay, I have never heard of a K2 meter and looked it up. Seriously sold for paranormal research. Sheesh! As for topics I’d love to have your blog cover, here are my top 3 (plus a link to the K2 site):
    wordbuilding for fantasy/SF, how to hook your reader at the beginning of your story/novel, productivity tips. (I’m cool on the Jedi powers. My son will simply inherit them from me 🙂 )

    • Lanette Kauten on April 26, 2013 at 9:17 am
    • Reply

    Yesterday, I received a personalized rejection from an agent who praised my descriptions and dialogue. She said the problem was that she couldn’t connect with my MC. I know this has been an ongoing problem with me in both my personal life and in my writing, but I don’t know how to solve this dilemma. What would be great is a blog post, or series, of how to deepen the MC’s POV and connect with the readers. One thing writers are told is to show characterization through dialogue, but according to the agent, that’s not my issue.

      • angelaackerman on April 26, 2013 at 4:34 pm
      • Reply

      Lanette, some of this might be voice, but I would consider going a bit deeper into your characters motivations and understanding what makes them do the things they do. A big part of this is understanding their past. Think about what events they experienced before the book begins that defined them. What things happened in their life to wound them? Did someone or something hurt them? Were they betrayed, let down? What caused a blow to their confidence? And now as they move forward in your story, how are they protecting themselves from being hurt the same way again?

      This is at the core of motivation: we are trying to emotionally protect ourselves from being hurt again in a way that shook us deeply. Think about a girl whose mother died in childbirth and the father abandoned her at age 10 because he couldn’t handle the responsibility. How would this damage her? How would she protect herself in the future from being hurt this same way again? Chances are, she would have trust issues and be fiercely independent, feeling she could not rely on anyone but herself. She may especially have a hard time with boys.

      Now do the same thing with your character. Think about how her desire to not be hurt would drive her motivations.

        • Lanette Kauten on April 26, 2013 at 9:35 pm
        • Reply

        Thanks. I’ll look into that. The problem is she (my MC) had a decent life. The devastating blow that shocks her to her core comes later in the novel.

        But there is one thing. She’s an only child and sometimes feels left out around people with close family ties. Because of this, she has a tendency to jump into relationships (even platonic ones) and trust others pretty fast. She’s also eager to tutor a Romani (Gypsy) woman who had been denied university admittance because she wants to help people. Her being an only child and always feeling like she’s on the outside is revealed about mid-way through the novel, but I also know we’re not supposed to give too much away at the beginning, leave a little mystery about motivations.

          • Kjell Hilding on May 1, 2013 at 1:44 pm
          • Reply

          We will always connect with MCs (even if we don’t like them) if we understand what they WANT and how they are going to work towards that goal. Less about past (although that plays into it) – keep it all about character desires and we’ll want what they want.

  7. I’m guessing my recent increase in antacid consumption correlates with my attempts at writing a decent synopsis. Well, my agent wants four, actually; one for each book in the series. Maybe a tutorial on those wouldn’t hurt.

  8. I vote for these articles:
    Why it’s a bad idea to let your husband have a remote control helicopter AND access to Post-It Notes? – Because I just HAVE to hear that story….

    How to deal with family/friends who doesn’t get why you want to be a writer and who are kinda jerks to you?…. Because, well… you know why…right? 🙂

    How do you hook in the beginning of your book? – I keep seeing articles on “Hooks” but I musta missed the “101” or “For Dummies” course, because they seem to pick up from a place I haven’t even visited…yet…LOL

    1. I’d love to hear your take on hooks, too. Second that motion!

      Also, debate seems to rage hot ‘n heavy as to whether it’s better to epublish yourself or go traditional. As an author who’s taken a more traditional route, what’s your take on the debate?

    2. What TamrahJo and Ensis said!

  9. I’d mentioned it before, but I’d like to learn more about the difference between drama and melodrama. Currently I use my husband as a litmus test, but I’d like to be able to distinguish the difference myself. How can you tell when you’re leaning melodramatic, and how do you fix it?

      • angelaackerman on April 26, 2013 at 4:40 pm
      • Reply

      I hope you don’t mind me jumping in, but I’ve tackled melodrama a few times:

      Visceral Reactions: Emotional Pay Dirt or Fast Track to Melodrama?

      Writing Extreme Emotion Without The Melodrama

      Emotions that escalate: how to build tension successfully:

      Maybe one of these might help! 🙂

  10. Below are the topics I’d love to read about:

    – How to use a pen name and ACTUALLY protect your real identity?
    – More about blogging? Where to start? What to talk about?
    – How to be an expert on ghosts? What exactly IS a K-2 meter and why are all paranormal investigators named “Darryl” and wear a mullet?
    – Tips for self-editing?
    – Dialogue between middle graders

  11. POV. Choosing correctly, and maintaining it consistently are probably my kryptonite. Thanks for your hard work!

  12. Ok, I’d like to hear about the tips for self-editing. I persist in being a do-it-all kind of writer, but tricks and tips would be helpful. When people say it’s like the blind leading the blind, I say yes, but only the blind know where they want to go!

      • Lanette Kauten on April 26, 2013 at 9:55 am
      • Reply

      Here’s a book on tips for self-editing.

        • Lanette Kauten on April 26, 2013 at 9:37 pm
        • Reply

        I’m a complete moron. I forgot the link:

  13. Children’s writing and how it’s different from writing a story for adults

  14. Lots of awesomeness to choose from. But the hook at the beginning of the novel is something that I’ve struggled with.

    And I’d love to make my blog and other social media reach more without being stupid or annoying the heck outta folks. I drop twitterers that clog my feed with constant, “Buy my book.” But what’s the golden number for normal/funny tweets? 1x a day, 5xs, 15xs? I gotta write too AND take care of my family/home. Too much, too much to think about!!!

  15. I’d love to hear any and all advice on querying an agent, since I’m only a month or two away from being ready to do so (eek!). Also, how to create great settings–I love dialogue and it’s definitely my strong point, but I feel like my descriptive powers could use some more oomph.

  16. I LOVE you Kristen! I would love to know more about editors – how to find them, the difference between them, are they genre specific and how much should they get paid?

    Also, what about agents? Is it better to seek out an agent and try to get traditionally published or, self-publish through Smashwords and CreateSpace?

    Yes, blurbs. I’m all out of chloroform.

    Sadly, I already know about band-aids in my hair and husbands with access to post-it notes and remote controlled helicopters. Sigh.

  17. Okay, Kristen– you have your work cut out for you now! (like, maybe survey monkey or something next time to save you some effort!)

    Anyhoo, since you asked, I vote for:

    How do we choose what genre to write?
    Do you want to explore psychological profiles for crime writing?
    Author Brand

    Happy Friday!

  18. Anything from you is gold :D, but here are my top picks:

    -dealing with family/friends who don’t get why you want to be a writer. (seriously, don’t they ever feel as though they will explode if they don’t get the story out?)
    -protecting identity
    -self editting
    -got to hear about the helicopter and post-its…

  19. I vote for character development! You read my mind. I’ve just been thinking I need to learn more about characterization but wasn’t sure where to find a good resource. Would love read a blog post from you about it. Thanks!

  20. Lately I’ve been interested in the business of writing: taxes, IRS do’s and don’ts, set up as LLC or SCorp, how to track hours spent writing for tax deduction, how to show it’s a business and not a hobby. Legal issues too — how close is too close to real life? When is it okay to use news stories to base your fiction, use conversations you’ve heard while eavesdropping in the coffee shop, how to write up a disclaimer or waiver to use something from real life like an organization in your fiction.

    I’ve been approached by debut, self-published authors who don’t know where to begin with promoting their books online with social media for advice — especially mid-lifers (50+) . I’ve written a post for another blog (don’t worry – I won’t spam here, just skating the edge) and I am developing a workshop from it, but it’s a big need to address. (I realize this may not appeal to your demographic, but in the romance and cozy genres, it seems that many new writers are in the Baby Boomer demographic.)

    And bandaids in hair a bad idea – yay or nay?
    My $2 – only if they’re bacon bandaids. Power Puff Girls bandaids only.

    Thank you Kristen!

  21. What a list – will keep you busy for years!! My choice is conflict and tension, including sexual tension. Without that, I think, all the rest is B.S. Readers will forgive a lot of flaws if you keep them engaged and turning the page. The BEST I’ve ever read is a mystery writer–Dick Francis, he’s deceased now, but go back and read any of his dozens of books and you’ll see what I mean.
    Thanks, Kristen.

  22. You have an impressive list here. However, I am looking for guidance on editing first-person POV beyond trying to remove the “I’s”. For example, are there any tricks to check for verb tense. It seems easier to mix this up in first-person during the first draft. Maybe it’s just that this POV is still new to me. Also, a discussion of copyright as it relates to social media would be useful.

  23. I’m interested in hooks and various ways of developing conflict and resolution (including how to use structure to do this). I’m VERY interested in nonfiction, which is primarily what I write, but I find your blog an amusing goldmine of ideas about writing in general… I just can’t stop reading. 😉

    • Yvonne Shepard on April 26, 2013 at 9:55 am
    • Reply

    Thank you for the invitation. I would like to hear about the advantages and disadvantages of third person limited point of view and third person omniscent point of view. Best wishes.

  24. Instead of how to teach my child Jedi skills by age three, could you tell me how to teach my cats so they can clean their own boxes?

    Ok, then I’d really like to hear the one about having a fabulous social media presence WITHOUT changing your personality (unless you’re a jerk). Shy introverts don’t need a personality transplant.

    And plotting. The book kind, not the evil genius world domination kind. Unless they’re related…

    • SweetSong on April 26, 2013 at 10:03 am
    • Reply

    Ooo, the two questions that I’d like to hear about are the ones about editors (line vs content and cost) and prologues. I’ve always wanted to include some tantalizing snippet of the future in a prologue, or background info on the world, but I always end up deleting them. And since I’m currently trying to research/hunt down good editors…

  25. One item I’d LOVE to see added to the list is: how do you identify your target audience and make sure your writing is tailored for them? (I was aiming in a particular direction, but the target I actually hit was elsewhere. Confusing.)

  26. I’d love one on CreateSpace :0) Your humor is so dry, Sheldon would be proud :0)

  27. I love your blogs. Always learn from them. A topic I’m interested in is how to get more reviews for your books online when you’re starting out. Or does that just take more volume of sells?

  28. Love the list! I agree with Melinda that I’d love the scoop on conferences and which ones you think are worth it. Plus, how many times should you attend the same conference?

    And coinciding with that, pitching to an agent, making your elevator pitch, etc. would be very helpful for those of us attending conferences this summer. Thanks Kristen! See you at DFWcon soon!

  29. LOL on the chloroform, bandaids, remote helicopter and Jedi skills!! While interesting, I don’t think I need more info on those. I’d like ideas on how pantsers can avoid procrastination when reaching the “dreaded middle”. And about how to use twitter without being a promo pain in the backside. Some people just annoy me to death with their constant buy my book tweets. Sigh.

  30. Hey, Kristen, thanks for the opportunity! I have a “craft” question. What are the special challenges and pitfalls when one is writing a series? I’m working on the third book in mine, and it’s a real juggling act to write for both the reader who has been following the series and the reader who is new to the series: characters to introduce, some backstory to cover, etc. I don’t want to info dump, bore veteran readers, or confuse new readers. Any advice?


      • Debbie Johansson on April 26, 2013 at 9:15 pm
      • Reply

      Good question Kathy. I have an idea for a series, so this would be interesting to know.

  31. All of the above. =). Although my son is showing some Jedi skills at age two. Really, I would like to hear a little more on writing in the YA genre.

  32. I’d like to know about character development. How can I make a weak female character stronger without it being obvious or not realistic enough?

  33. LOL the list, Kristen! But seeeeriously, the landing an agent thing: help! Was just about to research do-it-yourself-chloroform. Also something on lack of home support would be, well, supportive. Thanks for your column and the community you’ve created.

    • Hadassah Hannah on April 26, 2013 at 11:02 am
    • Reply

    What a fantastic list of potential topics! Virtually all of them are of interest to me!

    1. Hey, that’s good to hear, too. Now have blogging material for the next five years, LOL.

  34. Would love to see your thoughts on genre labels. How important is it (really!) to label our work in the right genre? And how do we figure out when it’s not enough filtering down, or when it is too much? For instance, I think of my work as Cozy Mystery, but was panned for lack of humor (is it always necessary?), also panned because I divulged the criminal too soon and lost the mystery (actually the mystery wasn’t about the crime or the criminal — that was an intended subplot). Then again, maybe I’m just too off base to recognize I made a mess? Or could it all have been cured if I’d labeled the genre correctly so the reader didn’t expect something different from what it is?

    1. Genre is important. Think of it like labeling cans of food. We don’t want to put a chili label on chicken soup. So we will cover that. Most of these topics will be covered at some point (that’s my plan). Also we will seek to offer classes to help you guys learn more. This helps us get an idea of your needs.

      1. Yes, I’m interested in hearing about this, too. Especially since self-publishing allows us to write cross-genre books that traditional publishers would have never touched. How do we narrow down the best fit for our work?

  35. Would love your opinion or at least more information on the worth of and how to survive online communities like Writers Cafe and, gasp, even Book Country. I’ll check back later – am on way to store to buy remote controlled helicopter!

  36. One more vote for the helicopter/post-its story!

    Also, CreateSpace would be an interesting topic, and productivity & time-management are huge problems for me. I’d love to hear how you manage to get your writing done.

  37. WOW–You have me hooked. I’ll be back soon, but there is too much important information for me to read today. I love this blog!

  38. I looked at your list of potential blog topics, and my first thought was: “Yes, please!” That’s probably a good sign. 😉

  39. I’m interested in learning the best way to include a characters thoughts in the text when writing in the 3rd person. Do I just put in a lot of “he thought”, “she thought”. Should I use italics? Should I just put the thoughts in there “as is” and let the reader figure out which sentences are the characters thoughts? That kind of thing.

    • Victoria Y. on April 26, 2013 at 12:16 pm
    • Reply

    Hi, Kristen. Thanks for writing one of my favorite writing blogs and for writing WANA — I think it’s the best purchase a writer that’s a social media newbie can make.

    Here’s what I’m interested in:
    – There’s a laundry list of reasons why I want to use a pen name and give it as little association with my real name as possible. So some words on using pen names in social media and protecting identity would be lovely!
    – SciFi/Fantasy worldbuilding and, more specifically, how to tell when you’re… ah… overdoing it.
    – Balancing work/home/family/sanity. I have a two year old and another (surprise) baby on the way, and I read my due date as the day when my writing career, such as it is, is officially over forever. I’m not having any luck keeping the sink clear of dishes as it is.

  40. I think it’s a great idea to pull blog post topics from subscriber comments. I do it all the time with great success.

    I always enjoy reading your true stories.

    • annfoweraker on April 26, 2013 at 12:30 pm
    • Reply

    Hi, I’ll add my vote to the helicopters PLUS to learn more about ….
    Tips for self-editing!!
    How do you get blurbs for your book without using blackmail!!
    CreateSpace – How to use it !!
    …… would be wonderful 🙂

  41. I vote for ‘all of the above.’ However, here’s one I’d love since it’s cropped … how to use Lightning Source to distribute your books to ‘traditional’ bookstores (including the bed-of-worms known as ‘returnable’). I imagine it would contain several sub-topics, such as A) what do you need to create your own .pdf (versus CreateSpace), B) what do you need to figure out your own cover (versus CreateSpace); and C) how to make your paperback ‘returnable’ without losing your shirt (including when it’s not worth your while because your book probably isn’t going to sell enough to cover the returns).

  42. Oh, wow—a lot of these sounded great. However, I’ve been knocking my head trying to find a professional editing partner. Anything about how to find a good editor would be great…

    • AMMahler on April 26, 2013 at 1:14 pm
    • Reply

    I would LOVE for you to talk about prologues, epilogues and epigraphs! That would be a great one!

    • Diane Turner on April 26, 2013 at 1:58 pm
    • Reply

    Great list! Many sound intriguing. I’d like to learn more about deep point of view and gain some tips on how to work in backstory. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and ideas.

  43. I’m a fairly long time subscriber and I love most of your blogs. From the list on today’s blog, I would love to hear more of your advice on landing an agent (without using chloroform) and anyother advice about agents. Do we really need/want an agent in today’s publishing environment? If we land an agent, what can/should we expect that agent to do for us? Can an agent actually be a bad thing?

  44. – How to find a good editor? What’s the difference between a line-editor and content-editor? What is reasonable to pay for these services?
    – World building (yes for sci-fi and fantasy, but also modern and historical fantasy)
    – Definitely learning self-discipline
    – Oh, and… um… explaining your browser history to you your husband. Things like why you are reading about the dating preferences of Japanese men…

      • AMMahler on April 26, 2013 at 2:17 pm
      • Reply

      Or how to make a homemade bomb…That one probably landed me on a watchlist!

      1. And curses…

  45. I sometimes have a problem winding up a story without starting another one. I want the story, say, 6,000 words but the closing would turn it into a novella. I usually pants it and let the story grow but like any good parent I have to put my foot down. How? the list has a bunch of odd bits I kinda know but would like guidance in.

  46. What about how to maintain conflict and sexual tension between hero and herione without making him a jerk and her a witch, or cold? Even in most romance novels I’ve read, I tend to favor one over the other. I want my readers to love both of them. The dance is a precarious one…

  47. Thanks for the invitation – this is awesome.

    I’m most interested in staying safe on the Internet (especially taking care of my pen name), what to do when people say “freelancing” is something you do until you “find a real job,” must-have resources for writers, balancing business writing and creative writing, not being lazy and how to deal with family and friends who want to be supportive without being inconvenienced because Heaven forbid you ever put off going to the grocery store so you can pound out a couple paragraphs in between dishes, laundry and picking up all the empty food wrappers and drinking glasses that like to populate your home almost overnight like a giant pack of bunnies.


    And I’ve always wanted to speak Pig Latin like pro should you ever have a slow day and need something to else write about.


    • Lin Barrett on April 26, 2013 at 2:57 pm
    • Reply

    This one, please: How to find a good editor? What’s the difference between a line-editor and content-editor? What is reasonable to pay for these services?

    Also, I’m currently neck-deep in the interplay among theme, plot, and character, so I’d love to hear you talk about that. Particularly “theme,” bah humbug.

    And this one made me chuckle, but as usual with Kristen, there’s a bit dose of reality in there: “How to use a pen name and ACTUALLY protect your real identity?”

    Thanks for letting us vote, Kristen.

  48. Nice pj pants. I have that same t-shirt. Geeks much?

    self editing
    self publishing
    writing string female leads and make likeable
    Theater or Theatre
    your favorite rock bands
    Could Green Lantern beat Superman in a battle of alien superheroes (technically)?
    open-ended ending versus tradtional endings

  49. I’d like to see some unknown writer features!

  50. prologues, knowing what genre to write, self-editing.
    Oh, and balancing life outside the home. You know, gaining new experiences vs. writing.

    • Harold Thompson on April 26, 2013 at 4:24 pm
    • Reply

    Nice Ax, Where can you buy those 🙂

  51. Oh! I forgot one: Subplots. Creating, effectively using, weaving in, etc.

  52. What I’m working on right now is re-writing (with pen and paper rather than keyboard), and I’m finding it incredibly hard for some reason. Most of my first 5 chapters have remained virtually the same, with some rewording or short sections deleted or added to shore up weaknesses I found. I finally got to one scene that I KNEW was poor when I wrote it but it felt oh-so-necessary. My crit partner suggested shifting perspective, which means completely redoing the whole section, so I am FINALLY rewriting. I’ve read all your posts on ‘little darlings’, but this is the first I’ve actually spotted and been able to do something with. I guess I could use tips on the rewriting process and ferreting out those little darlings that are either in the way or clumsy or just don’t do anything to further the plot in the right way.

  53. Hi Kristin!

    Awesome invitation – thank you!

    I am currently writing a self help book, so my genre is somewhat different, but some of your questions grabbed my attention.

    I’d love to read your advice on any of the following:

    Tips for self-editing?
    How to find a good editor? What’s the difference between a line-editor and content-editor? What is reasonable to pay for these services?
    Expectations in self help genre – if you know?
    Want to know about non-fiction – self help – yes please! I have read a number, but I’ve read them as a ‘reader’, not really as a ‘I want to eventually write one of these – what do I need to understand from how they’ve written it’ point of view.)
    How do you get blurbs for your book without using blackmail?
    Which type of publishing might be a good fit for you? (I am thinking of self publishing my first book. I am not writing it to make money from the book – at this stage anyway. It’s all about business branding for me. I think I’d like to land a publisher for subsequent books, but at this stage need the first one to get my brand off the ground….)
    Choose a conference?
    Author brand?
    How to use Twitter and NOT be a spamming @$$clown?
    More about blogging? Where to start? What to talk about?
    How to deal with haters and trolls without becoming one, too?
    How to balance social media and writing? It can be done. No whining.
    Want to know more about Smashwords? What does it do?
    Having a fabulous social media presence WITHOUT changing your personality

    …. and how to write in a way that ENGAGES in the blogging environment, and has people want to not only read and follow, but actually ENGAGE with me in post-blog dialogue. I am very new to the blogging world, and would like to have a kick-ass blog, so your advice with this would be MAGIC! 🙂 I have noticed that blog titles make a HUGE difference to my reader behaviour, so this is one thing I want to get a handle on how to do, but beyond that, what are the KEYS TO ENGAGEMENT?

    Thank you so much! x

    • christineardigo on April 26, 2013 at 7:31 pm
    • Reply

    Band-aid in the hair. Ha ha ha
    My biggest problem is using Would, could, should, and were & was.
    I am successful in turning most of them around but some i just cant change.
    also the finding an editor part would be great!! <3

  54. I was wondering about what is exactly the best publishing route for me to take for my novella. It’s a horror novella at around 43, 000 words. Should I even bother to get an agent for something that is less popular than a novel and less likely to make money? Should I try to sell it directly to small publishers, or go the e-publishing route?

    Note: I am currently unpublished, but I hope to get a few of my short stories published in lit magazines before I start pitching my novella.

    Thanks in advance for answering my question. 🙂

  55. You are an E-friend. But I do not go E-golf or E-bowling. The E-blog is fine. I am keeping up with my writing goals for 2013. I will read what others have problems with. TY.

    • Debbie Johansson on April 26, 2013 at 9:11 pm
    • Reply

    Thanks for the invitation Kristen – there are a lot of great ideas here and you really got my attention on how to be a ghost expert! I’d also be interested in topics on freelance writing, self discipline, crime writing, forensics and research. I’m also curious about author brand and what to blog about, although I’ll probably take up one of your courses on that. 🙂

    • Debbie on April 26, 2013 at 9:36 pm
    • Reply

    How about tackeling each topic…I couldn’t actually pick from them. I’m curious about premis statements as I have several dozen and none seem to captivate me or at least, I can’t imagine any of them captivating anybody who matters…like say an agent, editor, or a potential reader!

  56. The one that really struck me was “Which type of publishing might be a good fit for you?”

    Also, a totally different thing: How to give yourself that marvelous Texas gal look with bouncy hair and enhancing make-up. You always look awesome in your pics (and in person). 😉

  57. I like – What are the must have resources for authors? – This topic would be most helpful to me and other writers. Thanks for the love. 🙂

  58. Aw crikes, what a great list. Hum…so … this is like trying to decide which bubble gum machine to put my quarter in…I would tune in for any of these topics, but if I HAVE to pick, I’ll go with:

    How to find a good editor? What’s the difference between a line-editor and content-editor? What is reasonable to pay for these services?


    How to balance social media and writing? It can be done. No whining.

    • wendybird56 on April 26, 2013 at 10:07 pm
    • Reply

    I pretty much would benefit from all if those topics… except maybe the band-aid in the hair… and speaking Pig Latin… but the rest sound great!

  59. All of the above, except the stuff about fantasy writing- trolls and dragons give me nightmares! New here and hungry for anything and everything. Thanks, Amy

  60. I’m always guaranteed a laugh when reading your posts, Kristen. Thank you for that. Um, let’s see… I’m kind of partial to “How to land an agent without using chloroform.” Hee! But seriously, I’ve been reading a lot about the changing landscape of the publishing industry (traditional vs. self pub/e-pub) and would love to hear your thoughts on that.

  61. 0.o My mind is boggled by you looooooong list. Things are pretty much subjective, so I don’t need much answered in the way of bookish stuff. I’d love to know what the heck you’re holding in the pic. It looks like someone crossed a halberd with a lego toy. 🙂

  62. How to handle a pen name with social media. Please.
    Plus How to Use Twitter and not be a Spamming Thingummy. Pretty please
    And Which Type of Publishing…etc. I’ll stop now. But your words are gold. I want to hear what you have to say on these topics.

    • jkmikals on April 27, 2013 at 8:16 am
    • Reply

    That is such an intimidating list my mind has gone blank. But handling a pen name with aplomb jumps out. That would be good. And also, whether you are supposed to acknowlege every comment on your stuff in Google+ or anywhere else. It’s hard to be polite when you don’t know the rules.

  63. Definitely want to know about when to use prologues. I plan to put one in the next major romance ebook I plan to rewrite and publish next year.

  64. Would love to know your path the self-discipline!

    • Lara on April 27, 2013 at 5:12 pm
    • Reply

    Kristen, you’re so awesome I have a separate sub-folder with your name on it. You consistently thrill me with your information.

    I’d love practically everything on your list – but I, too, have a problem with show v. tell and deep POV. And the discipline. With a part-time teaching job, private tutoring, and part-time accounting work, I need all the discipline tricks I can get!

  65. My question-of-the-moment is not about how so much as when. I can find plenty of advice on (and have read lots about) character motivation, making sure you have an inner emotional arc for the MC as well as Stuff Happening in your book that provides the action arc, pushing the limits on making sure that 1) you character wants things and 2) your character must work for them, etc. My question is WHEN? When in the process do I apply this stuff?

    Outliners would argue first thing (I think) and pantsers later (after the first draft?). I’m struggling with a first draft and am trying to decide if all this technical stuff is a good idea or a horrific distraction. When is the best time for me to put all this information into the mix? Obviously, the goal is for it to someday be automatic (as you mentioned in your post on master writers) but that’s probably a few years away yet. I need to know what to do NOW.

    So I’d love to hear your take on the when of applying this sort of technical and structural writing advice.

  66. Kristen – that is an impressive list of topics. I would be interested in just about all of them – not all at the same time, of course. Perhaps the one about sticking bandaids in your hair could do with a pass….. Looking forward to seeing what you have to say about the other topics. Cheers, Deborah

  67. You really listen to your readers, Kristen 🙂 Thank you for letting us to give feedback.

    My two biggest stumbling stones right now are:
    – Learning self-discipline (to put the butt in the seat and write, and be consistent with blogging and social media)
    – Balance family, work and writing without going crazy

    Specific writing areas:
    – Differences and expectations in genres? (maybe have guest writers for some of the most popular genres)
    – How to bust through a plotting block and untangle messy plots
    – Identifying your theme(s) and how to show it in the various aspects of your story
    – How to separate character’s voice and your voice and make them both strong
    – How do you create romantic tension? Write love scenes?
    – How to write realistic male characters as a female author?
    – How to write a strong female character and make her likable, too?
    – Self-editing tips

    And I second TommieLyn’s suggestion:
    – How do you identify your target audience and make sure your writing is tailored for them?

    – How to choose which genre to write when you want to write more than one genre/sub-genre? How to pace the releases of your books for each genre?
    – How do you find comparable book titles to the book you’re writing?
    – Conference schmoozing tips for introverts

    • Nicki on April 28, 2013 at 1:16 pm
    • Reply

    I always wonder how long has to be each chapter, and how much research you need to do for your characters ?

  68. I would love to read more about developing a team (editors, artwork/cover designers, etc.) in the self-publishing world.

  69. I have the hardest time ending my books. I run out of story and chop it off with a “The End.” What do you do when the action is over, the problem resolved, and anything else would just be blathering, yet readers complain that it’s too abrupt?

  70. LOL Kristen, that is an epic list already. Here’s my picks from your list that I would love to read your opinion on:

    •How do you hook in the beginning of your book?
    •Tips for self-editing?
    •World-building? (for fantasy, sci-fi, etc.)
    •Differences and expectations in genres?
    •How do you create romantic tension? Write love scenes?
    •Scene and sequel structure?
    •Generating conflict and tension?
    •Land an agent without using chloroform?
    •How do you get blurbs for your book without using blackmail?
    •Which type of publishing might be a good fit for you?
    •Want to write about the military or guns in your book and sound like you know what the heck you are talking about? Revolvers DO NOT have a safety, btw. Also, it is a MAGAZINE, not a CLIP. And if we call it a MAGAZINE CLIP, it makes us sound double-stupid.
    •How to deal with haters and trolls without becoming one, too?
    •Balance family, work and writing without going crazy
    •Learning social intelligence

    And some of my own that I would like you to write about:

    * Drama vs Melodrama
    * Writer’s voice and penning your voice into the story, without sounding like you’re talking in first person
    * So, you want to convert your books into movie scripts. Where to start?
    * eBook and paperback pricing. Free vs paid, what different pricing can do for your novel(s), how to choose where to set it, do you discount? KDP select?
    * Rewriting published novels. Taboo or encouraged. Pros and cons
    * The protaganists: What do you do when your protaganist is a group, alien invasion, or a government?
    * Show and tell: How to know when to use exposition, how to better show readers your story, and not tell.
    * Identifying bad habits in our writings. Exorcising the demons
    * Inspiration vs plagiarism
    * EQ: How to learn, improve, and use it to better professional relationships and write better stories


  71. I would love some guidance on writing log lines/elevator pitches. Why are the simple things so difficult?


  72. Wow, great list. This could keep us going for another decade. But here’s my topic: I write YA/Middle grades, and I would love to hear more about how to integrate profanity into dialogue. I want to avoid offending people, but I also need my characters to sound real. If my audience is 12-14, can I write “s–t” or “f—“? What’s the convention these days?

  73. Hi Kristen,
    Thanks for opening the floor like this. You’ll be busy for the rest of the year following up on that list! I’m interested in lots of the points you raised but if I have to narrow it down to one, I’ll go for ‘when do you need a prologue?’
    I’ll be tuning in with interest …

  74. Editing services. Especially how much is reasonable to pay.

  75. Pitching an agent. How to condense the story into a compelling pitch.

  76. I am having a really hard time writing about a certain main character who is a crucial part in the story. How do you write for a character you don’t have any good idea’s for?

  77. I would like information on how to land an agent without using chloroform (or with chloroform if I can do it without getting caught). 🙂 J/K, or am I?

  78. I’d be interested in your thoughts about how the self-published writer can put together a dynamic virtual book launch team.

  79. I’d like to hear how you transformed yourself from a lazy sot into a productive person. 🙂 Also, any information on how a fiction writer should choose topics to blog about that don’t include ‘how to write a book’ would be most welcome.

  80. Dear Kristen,
    Thanks for this great blog post.
    At this moment I’m kind of very insecure about how to chose the right publisher. *sigh* I thought I had one, but then it turned out they won’t offer anymore what I wanted. Meant to me I had to look for someone else. I did my research and think I decided for one. But how do I know it’s really the one for me? *sigh* It confuses me…

  81. Lol. Anything on editing is appreciated xD

  82. To answer your questions, diving boards are barely allowed. Just barely. My parents had one but a new insurance appraiser told them what the premiums would be to keep it and it was in the trash the next day.
    My request for a topic is, when writing first person, how do you describe your character without them sounding arrogant? For example, Sookie Stackhouse constantly goes on about how great she looks, but I think it takes away from her then trying to call herself modest. Most of the time I think I don’t describe them at all, but I think that also takes away from the story.

  83. Backstories, and how to make them appear less like info dumps. Anything you do, though, is wonderful and greatly appreciated. Thanks a bunch.

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